Saturday, 9 July 2011

Kayaking Wars

That was by far one of the funnest weeks I have ever had in the army, probably because it hardly felt like we were in the army at all this week. As part of the gdud's transition from being in training to starting a new kav; we had a week of relaxation and activities to give us some breathing space before we start 'kav tsafon' (northern border guarding) next week.

Before I talk about this week, there are far more important things that I need to mention on this blog; mainly the farewell of both my 'mem pey' (company commander) and 'mem mem' (platoon commander). For me personally, these two officers have been, without a doubt, the best two commanders I have had in my service so far and so it was incredibly momentous to see them leave. First of all, my 'mem mem', Itay, has been my officer and platoon commander for almost a year now and I can remember meeting him for the first time back last year when I returned to Israel after being home for a month. I even said to him that there had been a mistake me being placed in his platoon as most of the guys from my previous 'mahlaka' had gone to another company, so I told him that I wanted to move there instead. He told me not to worry and that everything will be ok and despite being apprehensive about him and the new 'mahlaka' at first, I am now so happy that I ended up where I am today (which happens to be better than the other company). He is a great officer; always a professional and a leader when we were in Gaza and always a fantastic example for all of us when we were in training. I really do think he's a top notch guy, I mean he didn't get 'mitstayen mahat' (brigade commander's outstanding soldier) for nothing, and that's why he deserves the appreciation that I'm giving him now. Also for me personally, he was always there to help me with any problems I had, especially when going out of his way to make sure I got the full time off to be with my parents or allowing me to get out all those 'hamshushim' to sort things out at home. It's the end of an era and my new 'mem mem', who also seems like a good guy too, has a big pair of shoes to step into.

Back with my old friends from the gdud.

If I'm going to dedicate a whole paragraph to my old platoon commander, then, "M", my company commander deserves one too. Even if I'm including my 'mem pey' from commanders' course, then I've still only ever had three company commanders during my serice but even if I were to have thirty three I still don't think anyone could even come close to "M". Again, this is a man who I would be perefectly comfortable to walk behind in any sort of situation; calm, collected, simply the most apt soldier or officer I have ever seen. Despite being completely fixated on the task at hand, "M" was always there for me too, phoning me during 'makim' and also when I was with my parents. I will never forget how during kav, we noticed that he frankly did not have any time to sleep whatsoever and whenever I was doing 'ma'azin' (guard duty within the company area) I would always see him walking about, whether it was 2, 4 or 6 in the morning! All his outstanding work as a company commander has clearly been observed, since he is moving onto something far more impressive and going to be a 'mem pey' at a very secret unit, of which I am not at liberty to say, but believe me it is right up there at the top and I have no doubt that he will succeed there, depsite its incredibly high standards. So, good luck to both of my old commanders and thanks for all you've done in making my service a fantastic experience.

The whole tzanchanim brigade enjoying the concert.

Since returning to the gdud, there has been a new development within my company and something that affects my platoon in particular in a very good way. While I was away, soldiers from the August '10 draft, have joined my company and are, therefore, the youngest platoon in the 'pluga'. This has profound affect on us as, although we still aren't veterans (that's after two years in the army - only another four months for my platoon), we aren't the youngest anymore, meaning we don't have to do all the duties (kitchen, company, guarding etc.) as much. It hasn't stopped completely and it's not like we can just lounge around all day since we still have to send a soldier or two every day to do stuff, but if there is some shlepping or cleaning to do, then the guys from Aug '10 are picked on as opposed to us. It really does signal the gradual progress of my army service and finally it's our turn to dish out some abuse rather than to receive it, for once we are not the most 'tse'irim' (youngsters) in the gdud and we can use the small experience we have to our advantage, for example, in kitchen we can now refuse to do the dishes, instead this priveledge is at Aug '10's expense!!!

The lone soldiers of tzanchanim.

As I was saying, this week was probably the most un-army like week I have ever had. It all started with the tzanchanim sports day on sunday, which involved around ten people from each gdud, meaning for the most of the day we all just slept, sunbathed and hung about with friends from other battalions. The sports day was followed by the annual 'tzanchanim evening' which consisted of a show courtesy of a famous Israeli pop star, videos, awards and speeches from all the high ranking officers, including the new brigade commander. The next couple of days did involve a little bit of urban combat training, which I did less than a month ago in 'makim', but it was very relaxed and not taken seriously due to it being the final week of the training period. In addition to all this, we had an 'erev mahlaka' (pizza take away in honour of Itay leaving), 'erev pluga' (barbeque in honour of "M" leaving) and 'erev gdud' (a formal ceremony in honour of finishing the training and the transition to kav). Lastly, in celebration of the last week of the training, the whole gdud did kayaking on wednesday and went to a water park on thrusday. Of course, this was great fun but what was so funny for me was the attempt of stating rules at the start of both these trips. For instance, before we started the kayaking, we were told by one of the instructors that jumping in the water, fighting, using the paddles as weapons, taking off the lifejackets and much more childish/fun behaviour was not allowed. Now think about who she was talking to; a company of fifty combat soldiers, overjoyed to be finishing a three month period of being in the shetach every week and who also happen to be Israeli (mad enough by itself)! As you can imagine complete chaos ensued; none of the so-called rules were listened to and after approximately two minutes of paddling, an all out war broke out between the different 'mahlakot' (platoons). Soon this turned into a massive unification of everyone against the Aug '10 platoon and we all proceeded to dunk those 'tse'irim' into the water and attack them with the paddles!!!

It's sunday tomorrow and that can only mean one thing, back to the army. This week my platoon is undertaking explosives' training, as part of our speciality as an explosives platoon. From there, we are off to the Lebanon border to start three months of 'kav tsafon'. We'll be doing exits of 17:4, like I did in Gaza, so when I am next back home I will report on the new kav and what the next three months of my army service will entail.

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